Israel

   Given its precarious position in the Arab world and feeling particularly threatened by Iraq, Israel has long taken an interest in the Kurdish problem as a possible way to siphon off some of its potential Arab threat. Even before the creation of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency planted an operative in Baghdad. From there, under journalistic cover, Reuven Shiloah, who later became the founder of the Israeli intelligence community, trekked through the mountains of Kurdistan and worked with the Kurds as early as 1931 in pursuit of a "peripheral concept" to promote Jewish and later Israeli security. Most Jewish Kurds immigrated to Israel after its establishment in 1948. Yitzhak Mordechai, the Israeli defense minister in one of the Likud governments of the mid-1990s, was one of them.
   During the 1960s, Israeli military advisors trained Kurdish guerrillas as a way to reduce the potential military threat Iraq presented to the Jewish state and also to help Iraqi Jews to escape to Israel. This training operation was code-named Marvad (Carpet). The important defection of an Iraqi air force MIG pilot and his plane to Israel in August 1966 was effected with Kurdish help, while Israeli officers apparently assisted Mulla Mustafa Barzani in his major victory over Baghdad at Mt. Hindarin in May 1966.
   In September 1967, Barzani actually visited Israel and met with Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defense minister. Both the Israeli Mossad and the Iranian Savak helped Barzani establish a Kurdish intelligence apparatus called Parastin (Protection). During the Yom Kip-pur War in 1973, Barzani's Kurdish rebels in Iraq tied down Iraqi troops that otherwise might have been used against Israel.
   In 1996, Israel and Turkey began to develop a de facto alliance with each other that partially reversed the pro-Kurdish sympathies of Israel. Many Kurds believe that Israeli intelligence agents helped Turkey capture Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in February 1999.
   Nevertheless, reports indicate that Israel and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq continued to cooperate after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Israel has a strategic interest in the KRG in order to gain intelligence about Iran and Syria, particularly regarding Iran's nuclear program. Israel also supports the KRG as a counterweight to the Iraqi Arabs. In addition, Israeli firms carry out military training in antiterrorism techniques as well as commercial activities such as telecommunications and infrastructure projects in the KRG area. In May 2006, Massoud Barzani, the president of the KRG, summed up the relationship while visiting Kuwait when he declared: "It is not a crime to have relations with Israel."
   See also Jews (Kurdish).

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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